Tomorrow night, weather and health permitting, we’ll be situated in über-expensive first-level seats at the Wells Fargo barn in South Philly and grooving to the sing-along stylings of Sir Paul McCartney for the first time since 1990. There are dozens of songs I’d love to hear, and I have no fear that most will make the set list. But as a life-long, somewhat obsessive fan, quite a few of my wants fall into the obscure category – lesser-known album tracks and b-sides that, to my ears, are as good as quite a few of his biggest hits.
With that in mind, here are some of the overlooked gems from McCartney’s catalog that, really, he should dust off and perform from time to time –
1) “Golden Earth Girl.” Off the Ground (1993), the follow-up to the stellar Flowers in the Dirt (1989), was a spotty affair. Some of the best songs from the sessions for the album were relegated to CD singles – “Long Leather Coat,” “Kicked Around No More” and the full-length “Cosmically Conscious,” for example. Even if they’d been included, however, this song would remain the best on the album. Its melody lingers in the soul long after the music ends.
2) “My Carnival.” Recorded with Wings in New Orleans during the Venus & Mars sessions in early 1975, this party song wasn’t released until a decade later as the flip side to “Spies Like Us.” (It’s since found its way onto V&M as a bonus track.) I have no idea if it actually captures the flavor of Mardi Gras, as I’ve never been to New Orleans, but it sure captures my idea of it.
3) “Daytime Nighttime Suffering.” Recorded with Wings during the Back to the Egg sessions, this was the b-side to the 1979 single “Goodnight Tonight” – and is a much better song, in my opinion. It reportedly came about because a b-side was needed for that disco-light number, which was already slated as the next single; McCartney challenged the other members of Wings, including Linda, to write a song over a weekend, with the best one getting the flip side. Come Monday, he arrived in studio with this tasty treat and the song battle was, needless to say, done. (It’s since been added to the BTTE CD as a bonus track and is also available on the Wingspan collection.)
4) “Vintage Clothes.” From the overlooked Memory Almost Full (2007), a latter-day masterpiece that features an Abbey Road-like song suite on its second half. This is lifted from that.
5) “What It Is.” From Run Devil Run (1999), the first album he released after Linda McCartney’s death. The set was a collection of rock ’n’ roll and R&B chestnuts from the 1950s, similar to his 1988 Choba B CCCP collection, but also featured three excellent new songs – the title track, “Try Not to Cry” and this one, which reportedly was one of the last songs he wrote for Linda prior to her passing. Backing him is an all-star band that includes Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar and Deep Purple’s Ian Paice on drums. (It’s not the first time Gilmour lent a hand to Paul – he plays on “No More Lonely Nights,” as well.)
Bonus Song #1: “Country Dreamer.” Recorded in 1972 and intended for Red Rose Speedway (1973), which initially was to be a double-LP set. Plans eventually changed, of course, but it found a home on the b-side of that year’s “Helen Wheels” single. It’s since been included as one of the Band on the Run bonus songs.
Bonus Song #2: “Back Seat of My Car.” The closing track on Ram (1971), it likely isn’t all that unknown – yet, given McCartney’s expansive catalog, it does get lost in the shuffle by some. It would have been at home on Abbey Road (or any latter-day Beatle album, for that matter) and, to my ears, is one of his greatest songs.
Bonus Song #3: “No Words.” A Band on the Run highlight co-written with Denny Laine. Wondrous harmonies.
Bonus Song #4: “Spin It On.” A tasty little rocker from the underrated Back to the Egg.
Bonus Song #5: “Once Upon a Long Ago.” Supposedly written for The Princess Bride, but reportedly rejected by director Rob Reiner for being too sentimental, this nostalgic number wound up on the British version of the 1987 All the Best collection. Never released in the U.S.
Bonus Song #6: “All My Trials.” Paul and his Flowers in the Dirt band deliver this classic folk song with aplomb. He released it as a CD single in the UK, where it made the Top 40, and also included it on the single-CD Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights there, as well. It’s yet to be released in the U.S.
Bonus Song #7: “Check My Machine.” The b-side to the McCartney II-era “Waterfalls” single is truly bizarre and eccentric, and accented by a groovy beat. Some fans likely hate it, but I think it’s great.